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How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime

How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime
Money

The biggest mistake I see first time entrepreneurs make is that they spend too much money.

They rent an office or retail location, pay big incorporation fees, hire employees, and build an expensive website (just to name a few). And all before they’ve earned their first dollar!

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Each month their cash reserves get lower and lower while they struggle to make sales to cover their expenses. Eventually the fledgling business dies with no cash flow, leaving the owner hurt emotionally and financially.

Luckily, it is possible (and actually quite simple) to start up a business without spending a dime. The beauty of using this method is that you can test out a new business idea quickly and with zero risk. And instead of spending time negotiating leases or dealing with employees, you can spend 100% of your time on the most important thing: making that first sale!

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The first thing you’ve got to do is get past the idea of spending. Work out of your home or Starbucks on nights and weekends. Instead of hiring employees just get started with what you can do yourself, or ask friends for help. Don’t incorporate just yet, be a sole proprietorship. Don’t hire an expensive graphic artist to make your logo, stick with something simple…you get the idea.

You can spend money on all that stuff once you are bringing in revenue!

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Now to actually get started, here are 10 steps you can use to launch a new business, without spending a dime. The first five are logistical. The last five are all free ways to market your business (after all, the most important step is bringing in that first sale!)

  1. Get an EIN at the IRS website
    This one is specific to the USA, but all companies need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for one online at the irs.gov in about 5 minutes by clicking here. List yourself as a sole proprietor for now.
  2. Setup Your Business Financials
    Get a free business checking account. This will allow you to keep your business’s money separate and track it (vitally important!). I like Washington Mutual’s free business checking. They will also give you a debit card to track your expenses (never use a credit card) which are currently zero! Then get a Paypal account and link it to your business account so you can accept payments.
  3. Choose a domain name
    The fastest ways to get eyeballs on your new business is the internet these days. Choose a domain name that is a keyword phrase your potential customers might type into a search engine. So if you are offering salsa lessons in Boston, you might choose “SalsaLessonsBoston.com”. The benefit of doing this is that you will most likely end up on the first page of Google results for that keyword phrase within a month or two. This will bring your customesr, and is much better than showing up on the first page for “John Smith’s Salsa Company” or something that no one ever searches for.
  4. Make a simple website
    The fastest way I know of to launch a website is using WordPress (wordpress.com or wordpress.org). If you don’t mind using a subdomain like “mydomain.wordpress.com” it’s free. But even if you want your own domain you can get one with WordPress pre-installed for about $70/year. WordPress comes with over 2500 “themes” to change the look and a great back end interface to edit the pages just like you’re in Microsoft word. LifeHack.org uses WordpPress as do many other popular sites.
  5. Set Your Prices
    Most first time entrepreneurs set their prices too low. People assume low prices mean low quality, and you are worth more. Give away your product or service to the first five customers free if you’d like (it will help built buzz and you can ask them for testimonials), but after that set your price in the top 1/3 of your industry. It’s always easier to lower them than to raise them.
  6. Start Marketing on CraigsList.com
    The next five steps are all free marketing. Start by making regular posts on Craigslist.com. This is a free classified website that attracts millions of viewers. You can get some traffic to your website instantly by making some posts here, and you should continue to repost them every few days.
  7. Start a Meetup.com Group
    Meetup.com helps people with similar interests get together. If a group exists in your area with potential customers, join it. Try to be invited as a guest speaker and offer value to members of the group (don’t pitch them). Just by making friends and helping out you will start to bring in business. If a MeetUp group for your topic doesn’t exist yet, that’s even better. Start one up! You’ll be viewed as the authority in the area.
  8. Post a Video to YouTube.com
    YouTube is a video sharing website, and it gets ridiculous amounts of traffic. It’s actually easier to make a video than you think, and it doesn’t have to be professional at all. You can record one with your digital camera, make a screen recording of your computer (even a powerpoint presentation) with software like Camtasia, or purchase a $20 webcam. Teach or show something useful, and include a link to your site at the end of the video. You will get traffic!
  9. Network
    Send an email to all your friends and family (and really everyone on your contact list) telling them about the business you just started. Put a note at the end asking them to forward the note to anyone they know who might be interested (and tell them about the free offer for the first five customers). You’ll not only reach your network, but you’ll reach your network’s network (an exponential difference). You should also get people’s business cards that you meet (far more effective than giving them since few people will write you back) and offer to help them.
  10. Write an Article and Give it Away!
    Even if you aren’t a writer, you can put together a great article. Think of something your potential customers might want to know. Then write a “top ten” list (e.g. the top ten beginner salsa moves) or a “ten step” format (e.g. the then steps to learning salsa basics). Contact the owners of a dozen different websites that your potential customers might visit, and see if they’d like to use your article for free. Include a link to your website at the bottom in the “About the Author” section.

Using this simple format you can launch a new business in about a month, and hopefully make your first sale. But the best part is, even if it doesn’t work, you’ve learned a priceless lesson and risked little or no money.

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Don’t spend a single red cent that isn’t absolutely required when launching a new business! See if your idea works first, and then spend AFTER you’ve made your first sale!

Brian Armstrong is the author of Breaking Free, which shows how to quit your job and start your first business! You can download three FREE chapters of the book and sign up for his FREE online course

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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